I wrote a blog entry months ago about a new Stadia plant in Gilbert, Arizona. When I asked the preacher to define his position on "baptism for the remission of sins" all I got was a refusal to precisely state the church's position. He preferred to waffle and avoid the question. This response to such questions is used more and more and I can only conclude it is an effort to keep the question hidden in a smoke screen so Evangelicals will not be "offended."
In response to my article I got typical responses. On the one hand I got the typical Evangelical response challenging my view. You know what I mean: "What happens if someone dies before they can be baptized?" "Titus 3:5 is not talking about water baptism?" I could go on and on. Drawing on Zwingli's teaching from the Reformation they prefer his views to those of the Bible. I prefer Jesus straight forward statement found in Mark 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved...." Before you write, I know that verse is not found in some older manuscripts. It is found in some manuscripts and I have as much right to accept it as Scripture as you do to reject it. Oh, and by the way, Jesus knew that those who did not believe would avoid baptism and be condemned. I also prefer Peter's answer given to those on Pentecost who were told to "repent and be baptized every one of you for (unto) the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Honest evangelicals recognize the impact of that verse. If you don't think so, you should listen to Francis Chan's message from Cornerstone Community Church.
On the other hand I got feedback regarding Stadia, a supposedly Restoration Movement church planting organization with headquarters in California. I hear lots of rumors about Stadia but outside of the church in Gilbert, AZ, I've not seen solid evidence. If anyone has such evidence I'd like to see it.
I do see evidence of many within the Restoration Movement softening their view on the importance of baptism. That's true not only within the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. It is one of the interesting and puzzling changes occurring within the non-instrumental Churches of Christ. Oak Hills Church (once Oak Hills Church of Christ) in San Antonio has, for example, not only added instruments in some services but now accepts those not baptized into membership. To be honest, to be selected as a teacher or leader at Oak Hills one must be immersed. I predict that soon you will see the same thing in the Independent churches.
Something must be said here. A student of the movement is aware that Alexander Campbell had quite a controversy with Dr. John Thomas over baptism. Thomas, an immigrant from England, impressed Campbell at first but he drifted off into a view similar to the Donatist heresy in the early church. Thomas taught that anyone baptized in one of the denominations need to be baptized again when they approached him for membership in one of the churches he influenced. Campbell's debates clearly demonstrate he believed sprinkling and pouring were not baptism at all. Therefore, immersing such individuals was appropriate. Furthermore, Campbell rightly argued there was no biblical warrant for baptizing infants or those unable to make an independent decision about Christ. Campbell's issue with Thomas was the insistence that even those immersed required another immersion. Campbell noted that those in the Restoration Movement never made such a requirement.
The sad thing that is happening today is not that immersion is not practiced. Rather, it is the fact that the biblical and theological truth about baptism is avoided altogether. It is now something one ought to do because "everyone gets baptized" or because "Jesus did it" or "it is a membership rite required to join a church." As one of my former students put it, "We don't argue about baptism because everyone knows you should be baptized." That's fine as far as it goes but it sure leaves much biblical teaching out and the product is a weak Christian. That approach denies two major biblical teachings. Jesus taught us to "teach them to observe all things I've commanded." Paul told Timothy to teach truth to "faithful men who will teach others."
It is time to teach the truth and not waffle.